Novel Coronavirus COVID-19
 

Information about COVID-19 and Preventing Transmission


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What is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a virus in the coronavirus family. Most people infected with the virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness, but the virus can affect different people in different ways. Some will become seriously ill and require medical care.




What are COVID-19 Symptoms?

Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19. Some of the more commonly reported symptoms include:

  • Fever/chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat/hoarse voice
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Skin rash of unknown cause
  • Vomiting, diarrhea for more than 24 hours
  • Nausea or loss of appetite
  • Runny nose
  • Poor feeding in an infant

While many people will develop only mild symptoms, some groups appear to be more vulnerable to COVID-19. Those at higher risk are more likely to develop more serious conditions such as pneumonia, acute respiratory failure and kidney failure, leading to hospitalization or even fatal outcomes.

Factors that may put you at higher risk of developing severe outcomes from COVID-19 include:

  • if you are not fully vaccinated or boosted,
  • your age - risk increases with age,
  • chronic medical conditions,
  • immunocompromising conditions, due to a medical condition or treatment,
  • obesity,
  • smoking, or
  • pregnancy.

Some populations are also at overall risk of severe outcomes, which may be related to where they live or work, such as in congregate or crowded settings, and how they access care. This includes people with disabilities, and people who are Indigenous or Black or other people of colour.




Long COVID

Most people with COVID-19 get better within a few days to a few weeks after infection, but some people who have had COVID-19 can experience long-term effects from their infection, known as post-COVID-19 condition (PCC) or long COVID. People with PCC can have a wide range of symptoms, which may include general symptoms like fatigue, respiratory and heart symptoms, neurological symptoms, or digestive symptoms. More information and resources are available at Long COVID - Shared Health (sharedhealthmb.ca)

If you or the person you are caring for is experiencing long COVID, talk to your health care provider or call Health Links - Info SantÚ at 204-788-8200 in Winnipeg or toll-free 1-888-315-9257.




How is COVID-19 Spread?

Respiratory infections, such as the virus that causes COVID-19, can spread from person to person through respiratory droplets and aerosols produced when an infected person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. The virus can enter your body if droplets or aerosols get into your throat, nose, or eyes. You can transmit COVID-19 before you start showing symptoms or if you are infected but never develop symptoms.

Smaller droplets or aerosols can collect in enclosed spaces, particularly when more people share a crowded space, spend prolonged time together, or exercise, sing, shout, or speak loudly. Opening windows or increasing fresh air intake with mechanical ventilation are important protective measures that can help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19 may also spread by touching something that has the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands. Even though COVID-19 can survive for periods of time on different surfaces, infection from contact with contaminated surfaces appears to be rare. The most common type of spread is through contact with the respiratory droplets or aerosols of an infected person.




Variants of Concern

Viruses like SARS-CoV-2 are constantly changing through mutation. New variants occur over time; sometimes the new variants emerge and disappear, while others last. With SARS-CoV-2 some of the variants are called variants of concern.

Variants of concern may do one or all of the following:

  • Spread more quickly in the population compared to the current strain
  • Cause more severe disease
  • Compromise immunity that is created through previous infection or vaccination.

Given these potential changes, public health officials at all levels (internationally, nationally and provincially) continue to actively monitor and study emerging COVID-19 variants.

Visit the World Health Organization for more information on the naming of COVID-19 variants of concern and variants of interest.




Preventing Respiratory Infections

COVID-19 and other respiratory infections continue to circulate in Manitoba and around the world. Manitoba, like other jurisdictions, has largely returned to normal activities. However, there are still steps we can take to protect us from the impacts of COVID-19, especially during respiratory illness season, or if you are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

  • Get vaccinated.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently.
  • Cover your cough / sneeze.
  • Wearing a mask in indoor public spaces.
  • Consider your setting, improve ventilation and spend time visiting outdoors.
  • Know if you are eligible for treatment.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched by many people.

Each person may choose a different set of preventive steps they follow based on their own personal risk and preferences.




Preventing Transmission

Get vaccinated

Vaccines significantly lower the risk of severe outcomes, such as hospitalizations and death. Vaccines are the best defense against the virus and individuals are encouraged to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as they are eligible. For more information on the COVID-19 vaccines, visit protectmb.ca/ or book your appointment at Province of Manitoba | Vaccine Finder (gov.mb.ca)


Stay home when you are sick

Stay home if you are sick, even if you are only feeling a little unwell. During that time, avoid contact with others - including people in your household. Follow public health recommendations for isolation when you are sick (Guidelines and Next Steps if you have symptoms or been exposed to COVID-19). If you start to feel worse during your isolation period, talk to your health care provider or call Health Links - Info SantÚ at 204-788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257.

Even if you are feeling better, you should wear a well-fitting, well-made mask if you have contact with other people while you are ill and for 10 days after the onset of your symptoms.


Wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently

Good hand hygiene provides significant protection from many infections, including viral respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19. Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds and dry your hands thoroughly afterwards. If using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, make sure it contains at least 60 per cent alcohol and allow your hands to dry afterwards.

Manitoba has hand hygiene posters available in several languages.


Cover your cough / sneeze

Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, or cough or sneeze into your sleeve. Throw used tissues in the garbage and immediately wash your hands, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.


Wearing a mask in indoor public spaces

Wearing a well-fitted, well-made mask can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by reducing the spread of respiratory particles you produce and inhale. Masks are an additional layer of protection along with other measures such as getting vaccinated and staying home when sick.

Wearing a mask in public indoor settings is not required by public health. Wearing a mask is a personal choice. Consider wearing a mask in crowded indoor settings where you may come into close contact with people you do not know or normally interact with.

In particular, mask use should be considered for:

  • Individuals at higher risk of severe illness
  • Settings where there are many people who are at higher risk for severe disease. For example, healthcare facilities and personal care homes may continue to require mask use.
  • Any public indoor setting during periods when respiratory virus activity is high, especially for individuals at higher risk of severe illness. Information on respiratory activity in Manitoba is available at Provincial COVID-19 and Seasonal Influenza Surveillance | Health | Province of Manitoba (gov.mb.ca)
  • Individuals who are sick or have tested positive for COVID-19 when they leave their home or have contact with others for 10 days after their symptoms started (or their test date if they have no symptoms).
  • Individuals caring for someone who is sick or has tested positive for COVID-19 to help protect from getting ill.

Visit the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) website for more information, including posters, on how to choose, use, and care for a mask as well as how to make your mask fit properly.


Consider your surroundings, improve ventilation and spend time visiting outdoors

Poorly ventilated spaces, crowds, and large gatherings will increase the risk of exposure to a respiratory virus. Ventilation, whether through opening windows or the use of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, can increase the amount of outside air brought inside. This will dilute the number of viral particles in the air, and help to reduce the risk of exposure.

During times when respiratory illnesses are widely circulating in the community, if you are at higher risk of severe illness or want to take additional precautions, consider keeping gathering sizes smaller and limiting the number of people you routinely have close contact with. Viral particles spread between people more readily indoors, so spending time outside can also help.

Also consider taking additional precautions to protect others if you are visiting a setting where there are individuals at higher risk of severe illness, such as personal care homes or other congregate settings.

More information and resources on ventilation are available at www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/guidance-documents/guide-indoor-ventilation-covid-19-pandemic.html


Know if you are eligible for treatment

Treatment is available and recommended for people at higher risk of developing severe outcomes from COVID-19. It can only be given within 5 to 7 days of the start of your symptoms, so the best time to find out if you would be eligible for treatment is before you get sick. Information on COVID-19 treatments and eligibility for those at higher risk is available at https://gov.mb.ca/covid19/treatment/index.html.


Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects frequently touched by many people.

Surfaces and objects are more likely to become contaminated with COVID-19 or other respiratory viruses the more often they are touched. Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that are touched more often can inactivate the virus, making it no longer infectious.